Shafer’s big scoring spree

Rubalcaba's 3rd-quarter spurt helps Junction get past Fruita

Fruita Monument’s Taylor Eatwell scores two of her eight points Friday night in the Wildcats’ 50-38 loss to Grand Junction. A key third-quarter run and some mature play by Sydni Brandon helped the Tigers get the victory.

With its offense stalling after taking a 21-15 lead into halftime Friday night, the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team leaned on Shafer Rubalcaba for some much-needed scoring.

The senior forward scored nine of the Tigers’ 17 points in the third quarter as Grand Junction topped Fruita Monument 50-38 in a Southwestern League rivalry game.

“It means a lot winning this game,” Rubalcaba said. “You have all of your students and all of their students and it’s such a fantastic game to play in. It gets crazy. I think in the third quarter we just started seeing the gaps in their defense, and I mean, we’ve been playing together so long that we know each other’s strengths. It finally came together for us in the third quarter.”

After a quick start, and then foul trouble late in the third quarter, Sydni Brandon finished with 16 points to lead all scorers.

The foul trouble led to visible frustration, and Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said Brandon asked to come out so she could compose herself. Provenza lauded Brandon’s maturity.

That’s what Syd does, she leads our team,” Provenza said. “We go as Syd goes, and there was a point where she did get frustrated. She asked to come out for a little bit there, which to me is a really mature thing to do. She settled down and then said I’m ready to go back in. She settled down and she took care for the game there at the end.”

The Tigers (21-2, 9-1 SWL) were tied 9-9 in the final moments of the first quarter when Brandon hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. They took a six-point lead at halftime, and didn’t begin to pull away until late in the third.

Led by Rubalcaba, Grand Junction opened a 38-23 lead through three quarters. When Fruita Monument (10-13, 6-4 SWL) started closing the gap with 4:35 left in the fourth quarter, Tigers guard Melissa Atchley drained a contested 3-pointer, sinking the shot as she was fouled. After completing the four-point play, Grand Junction wasn’t challenged. The Tigers made all seven of their free throws in the fourth quarter.

“That run at the end of third quarter was a nice offensive run,” Provenza said. “It was keyed by our defense, just like it always is, and I think when we got that I knew we could take control of the game.”

With the win, Grand Junction will likely be a No. 4 seed in the Class 5A playoffs.

“We could be 29-0 and we’d be a four-seed,” Provenza said. “We leave it up to the (selection committee). I’m just happy that we get to keep playing basketball.”

With the loss, Fruita Monument remains firmly on the playoff bubble, ranked 40th in the MaxPreps Power Rankings entering the game.

Kassidy Fair led the Wildcats with 15 points and Taylor Eatwell and Vanessa Herrera each added eight points.


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